Friday, December 07, 2007

To TiVo® or not to TiVo? That is the question

You may have read recent news stories about the just–completed, November television ratings period. It’s a time for networks and their local affiliates to get a measure of who is watching and who is not.

These rating periods are conducted four times each year in November, February, May and July. You’ll have no problem noticing these occasions because it’s when the networks air their most popular shows’ premieres and   promote various new series.

A company called Nielsen Media Research measures the results which are critical to programmers as it sets the rate they’re able to charge people like me for commercials..

One method involves a group of selected viewers filling out diaries and sending them in. Others have boxes hooked up to their TV’s in order to electronically measure viewing data. In a market like Denver, between 4-600 viewers are needed to make up the sample to be able to measure the viewing habits of hundreds of thousands of people.

But is measurement technology keeping up with viewing technology?

Here’s an example that one of our staff here at Video Professor shared with me.

He watches programs like NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’s “Face the Nation”, at his leisure instead of Sunday mornings when they both air. He can watch them later that evening or while eating lunch on Mondays. Both programs are available as podcasts which he watches on his video iPod® player.

On a recent Tuesday night he watched episodes of “Shark” airing on  Sunday evenings on CBS, and “Heroes,” airing on Monday evenings on NBC,  via DVR (Digital Video Recorder.) He enjoys being able to skip through commercials, two hours of programming is compressed into less than 90 minutes.

He also mentioned that at least twice that Tuesday evening, he checked in with a local station’s news website via his BlackBerry ® device. He didn’t have to watch a traditional newscast to find out the news, weather and sports he needed.  I just hope he read the e-mail I sent to that very same BlackBerry about getting next year’s budget numbers in!

So, while he does watch some programming live, much of his news and information comes via delay on the DVR, his iPod or BlackBerry device. So it appears that while he watches, he’s not one of the counted.

Companies like Nielsen are working hard to catch up with technology, like many of us these days. While technology moves ahead at what seems light speed, the methods to measure it, and legislate it effectively, move far slower. So, is that good or bad? Do you even care?

However, that’s just part of the equation. You could get your news on the Internet and comment about with a blog, like I do. Some blogs are extremely influential in politics, business and entertainment.

While you may be watching a show on television or your iPod, others are listening to music on their MP3 players, playing video games, watching movies on their home theater systems, or downloading video to their computer. Nowadays, people are not just watching television. We have many choices, whether it’s between a satellite provider or cable company, both are  available in HD (High Definition) which is optional. There are even more choices with the invention of HDTV, built-in digital video recorders and third party hardware such as  TiVo ®  digital video recorder.

Here’s the bottom line: Technology is doing what it’s supposed to be doing: Empowering you, the consumer, with choices. Networks do not dictate when or how you watch. You do. When there isn’t something interesting to watch in  our 500 channel universe; you now have so many other choices.

All of us here at Video Professor have been paying very close attention to this surge in technology since we started working on our Digital Devices Made Easy tutorial. We learned from our own experiences, plus those of our customers that while all this technology is fabulous, understanding how it works can be quite frustrating. We’ve also learned from all the lessons we’re selling, you will continue to come to us for help.

It reminds me of when I first started Video Professor over 20 years ago, people knew that computers were the future. They knew that like it or not, computers would become a part of their every day lives. They just needed someone to teach them how to operate their machines.

Technology we could only dream about 20 years ago, including  HDTV’s, iPods and digital video recorders are here to stay. So, the technology has changed. What hasn’t changed is that we simply need to learn how to operate it all!

I guess it’s true, the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’re happy to keep up with it all in order to help you keep up with it all.

I’m curious as to how the many home entertainment choices available today are used in your house. Share your stories with me at

I look forward to hearing from you.


John W. Scherer